Friday, January 4, 2013

Some Thoughts on Open-Mindedness & Frugality

A couple months ago, I was looking through some recent comments made on old posts. One comment, in particular, caught my attention.

Let me back up a bit and tell you what the post was about, first.

Back in August 2009, I wrote my second post ever on this blog: a book review for The Complete Tightwad Gazette. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it's a 900-page book full of frugal tips and ideas, a collection of articles from author Amy Dacyczyn's newsletter. I read this book years ago, in the days before I had kids, when I'd only been married for about a year, just barely graduated from college, back when things were especially tight financially for the husband and I.  While the book has lots of great information (though, since it was written in the early 1990s, it's a tad outdated), it also has some pretty out-there, albeit creative, ideas. For that reason, I didn't give it a glowing review.  Looking back, I may have been a little overly critical, maybe even a little snotty.

Back to the comment thing...

So I got a comment on that old post, almost exactly three years after I wrote it, from someone saying she was the author's daughter. I can't be entirely sure if it truly was written by Ms. Dacyczyn's daughter since the name the comment was left under was simply "Unknown."  In any case, the comment was polite in addressing my criticisms and pointed out a few inaccuracies on my part. This prompted me to re-read the post, one I'd sort of forgotten about.

It was more than a little embarrassing. Humble pie, anyone?

In the review, I specifically turned my nose up at the notion of people saving bread tabs, washing and reusing plastic zipper bags, reusing old and unmatched socks as rags, saving and reusing the mesh bags from onions, and finding uses for empty milk jugs. In the post I joked about wondering where she "stores all this garbage she collects." I even found her criticisms of using disposable diapers off-putting.

Um, I do all of those things now. What's more, I've written about all of them on this blog. Oops. {Insert facepalm here.} 

Thankfully, I've grown wiser in the 3 1/2 years since I wrote that post. Let's just say I've evolved in my frugal journey.   I mention all of this to demonstrate that one key, one main key, to living frugally is to keep an open mind. Living frugally often requires, to use a couple clich√© terms, a paradigm shift and thinking outside of the box.

Take cloth diapering, for example. Even at the beginning of my pregnancy with my second child, if someone would have told me that I would do cloth diapers with him, I wouldn't have believed it. It seemed like too much work and much too, well, gross. Who uses cloth diapers these days, I would have asked. I only had memories of how my mom cloth diapered my little brothers back in the 1980s -- big prefolds, diaper pins, plastic covers -- and that wasn't appealing at all.

A few months into my pregnancy, I learned that that my husband's cousin, Nisha, was using cloth diapers. I was intrigued. She wrote a guest post on this blog and I was determined to look into the whole subject more. Before long, I decided to give it a try.  My baby is nearly two years old and we're still using cloth diapers on him. It hasn't been nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I'm just as used to them as I was with disposables with my first child. In fact, I prefer using cloth over disposables now. And, best of all, we've saved hundreds of dollars in the meantime. I love not having diapers on my shopping list.

Another example of a paradigm shift and open-mindedness is from my mom. Throughout my childhood, I can remember my mom cleaning everything with bleach. And why not? It was dependable. It was cheap. That bleachy smell let you know that the germs were dead and that things were clean. A few years ago, as I was trying out different eco-friendly, homemade options for cleaning, options that were also really cheap, my mom kept an open-mind. She didn't switch at once, but now she uses baking soda, vinegar, and castile soap for the bulk of her cleaning (though she still uses bleach now and then).  She saw that they worked, that "clean" didn't need to smell like bleach.

This has happened over and over to me -- there have been ideas I brushed off, only to try them later and realize that they actually work well . An old sock missing its match makes a great bathroom cleaning rag. A mesh onion bag wrapped around a dishrag makes a surprisingly good scrubber. Bread tabs save your spot on a roll of tape. Washing plastic zipper bags is really not that much of a bother. Reusing milk jugs changed how I'll garden every summer.

Sure, there are some ideas that still seem out-there when I come across them. There are some in The Tightwad Gazette that I still think are a little extreme and, frankly, weird. This time, though, I'm not going to say which. Who knows what I'll be trying in the future.

Note: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

{This post is linked up to Simple Lives Thursday, Little House Friday, Your Green Resource, Homestead Barn Hop, and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways}


Heather Dixon said...

I think if I had a nickel for every stupid thing I've said on the internet, I'd be a billionaire.

This will give me inspiration to save my bread tabs :)

Anna said...

You make some great points - and it's wonderful that you're so humble about it. It's really hard to admit when we say something we wish we hadn't.

Marissa said...

found you from YGR and I had to chuckle as you talked about the things that you now do that you think are weird. I've had to eat humble pie quite a few times in the past couple years! And I would never have thought of that use for the mesh onion bags! can't wait to try it!

Michelle C said...

I love the ideas in the Tightwad Gazette, but you're right about keeping an open mind. Genius and invention can only happen when you have the need for it. As our life journey progresses we all need new ideas. I save bread tabs to use as scrapers in the oatmeal pot. I'll try them on the packing tape, too!

Christy said...

Ah, never say never! I loved the Tightwad Gazette books - I learned an awe full lot from Amy. Changed the way I did my job as a homemaker - mostly just opening my eyes to different ways to do things. A little humble pie does us all good at times, makes us so more real! And I agree, some of the stuff in her books is just a tad out there!

Anonymous said...

I remember when I first heard about the tightwad gazette. I felt the same as you! You are so humble to admit you do many things you used to laugh at. I do things now I thought I would never have to do, too! I like to find new uses for things I already have laying around. I really enjoyed your post! :)

farmer_liz said...

Nice post! I used to think my grandparents were weird for saving scraps of paper and envelopes to write on, now I do that too, so I don't have to buy paper. Now I'm interested to see what else you will try from that book!

Rachael Cleveland said...

I really enjoyed this re-look. It takes guts to share our mistakes, and you did just that while also showing what you learned. That's awesome!

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